Well, Hello There, 2021
Well, that didn’t take long. Six days into a new year and we are reminded that even though our calendars changed, the dark challenges of our nation have not.
Nor the dark challenges to the church.
The absolute ugliness of Christian Nationalism was on display yesterday. Videos and photos of the events show some of the rioters carrying banners that proclaimed, “Jesus 2020” while others wore shirts that said, “6MWE” (a white nationalist slogan that means 6 Million Wasn’t Enough – a reference to the holocaust) and others carried confederate flags through the halls of congress.
People, proclaiming their faith in the Christian God, were violently demonstrating their fear that God wasn’t getting it right and their hatred for “those people” who were making it all go wrong (whether those people were democrats, Jews, or the emancipating forces of the Union).
Al Jazeera, a national news outlet that feeds much of the Middle East, showed images of men carrying a large wooden replica of the cross as they climbed the steps to breach the Capitol, an image that ties yesterday’s actions to a long history of Christian violence being carried out in the name of Jesus.
This is a shame to us all.
But it is also an important and helpful reminder that what is happening around us is nothing new. There is a restless, worldly impulse at the sinful heart of humanity – to try to bring in the kingdom of God through the power of the kingdom of man. It has been at work since the fall and will continue to work until Jesus returns.
It was that worldly force that was at work in the tower of Babel as mankind rose up to be equal with God. It was at work in the rise and fall of world powers like Babylon, Persia, and Rome as they sought to conquer all and rule. It was the driving impulse behind the slaughter of Jews both by Antiochus Epiphanies and Adolf Hitler – and it was under the hoods of the KKK as they sought to terrorize black skinned people back into submission. The same force was at work uniting the unholy union of religious, political, and cultural leaders of Jesus’ day to crucify the King who came to them in the power of love and truth.
The power of the kingdom of man is the threat of violence and death. The power of the kingdom of God is the promise of love and resurrection.
I’ve said it a thousand times, and I’ll keep saying it. God isn’t on the republicans’ side. Nor is he on the democrats’. God’s kingdom won’t be realized through any political candidate, any economic system, or through any exertion of the power of man.
Like Joshua, if we come to Jesus and ask, “Are you for us or our adversaries?” he will simply respond (as he did to Joshua), “No. I am the commander of the army of the Lord. I am come.” (See Joshua 5:13-15.)
The question has never been whether God is on our side or on theirs. If we ask, he’ll just say no. Because it’s the wrong question. The only question that matters is whether we are on God’s side. God isn’t looking for us to grow in power to defeat others for him. He is looking for us to rest in his power to love others who need grace as much as we do.
God’s kingdom will win, but it’s power is radically counterintuitive to the worldly mind. The power of the kingdom of God isn’t the sword – it’s the cross. The power of the kingdom of God isn’t the ability to force others to submit their wills – it’s love that transforms their hearts.
Man’s kingdom flexes the power of death to intimidate, silence, and defeat those that oppose its power. God’s kingdom walks right through that death, in the power of love, to the resurrection on the other side.
A new year can be a new start. Let’s commit to being people who genuinely believe in the power of love. Let’s be a people filled with hope – not because the right politician got elected, but because Jesus rose from the dead. Let’s be a people generous in favor, kindness, and gentleness, even to (and maybe especially to) those we disagree with, because we already know the end of the story.
The kingdom of God is coming – and, in fact, is already here, in the people who respond to and share God’s love.
Let’s be rich in love.